Lecture on the Royal Arch tracing board

At a meeting of Sandylands Chapter No 5702, it was a privilege for members and their guests to witness an explanation of the Royal Arch tracing board by the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter of West Lancashire No 8516. This was only the second time this lecture had been given and so it was a great honour for Sandylands Chapter to host the meeting.

A Royal Arch tracing board.

A Royal Arch tracing board.

In attendance were Deputy Grand Superintendent Paul Renton, accompanied by the Lancaster and District Group Chairman Jim Wilson, Provincial Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies Neil MacSymons, acting Provincial grand officers Paul Thompson and Steve McClintock, together with 12 members of the Provincial Grand Stewards Chapter.

On completion of the business of the chapter, Neil entered the chapter to announce that the Deputy Grand Superintendent stands without and demands admission. The three principals greeted Paul warmly, following which the first principal Donald Polson offered him the sceptre, for which Paul thanked Donald but gave it back commenting: “I have a little bit of work to do and on that basis, I offer it back.”

The floor of the chapter was now free to proceed with the lecture. In the first instance, Paul took the floor to give an overview of the evening’s lecture and with the use of a projector and screen, it was to be his task to enhance the lecture with images relating to different aspects of the commentary. Paul commenced with a brief history of tracing board designs which were standardised by John Harris (1791-1873), after an invitation was made by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement for artists to submit designs for tracing boards in 1845. John Harris’s designs won the competition easily and he produced a series of designs for tracing boards including the Royal Arch. These designs were widely adopted and form the basis of many still in use today.

The lecture itself was split into 12 sections, each of which had a different narrator taken from the members of the Provincial Grand Stewards team. Each section looked in detail at the various artefacts or symbols which appear on the tracing board to help explain their Masonic meaning or relevance, such as the staircase, carpet, trowel, the five platonic bodies and the pedestal.

Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter team

Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter team

Just and eloquent praise was given by Barry Wood in the chapter, when he used a poem by Henry Longfellow called ‘A Psalm of Life’, to inspire his response when bringing greetings from the Provincial grand officers. In one verse, Longfellow describes leaving ‘footprints on the sands of time’ and Barry rephrased this line to announce that the ‘footprints left behind by the lecture this evening will stay with the companions for a long time’.

A very fitting end to an evening which had been of great interest and well received by the companions present in the chapter.

Article and photographs by Paul Thompson.

Pictured centre left is Paul Renton, the three principals (centre), Jim Wilson (centre right), Neil MacSymons (far right) and members of the Provincial Grand Stewards; Chapter team.

Pictured centre left is Paul Renton, the three principals (centre), Jim Wilson (centre right), Neil MacSymons (far right) and members of the Provincial Grand Stewards’ Chapter team.

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